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Tue Oct 22, 2013, 11:13 AM

Language-Gap Study Bolsters a Push for Pre-K.

Nearly two decades ago, a landmark study found that by age 3, the children of wealthier professionals have heard words millions more times than those of less educated parents, giving them a distinct advantage in school and suggesting the need for increased investment in prekindergarten programs.

Now a follow-up study has found a language gap as early as 18 months, heightening the policy debate.

The new research by Anne Fernald, a psychologist at Stanford University, which was published in Developmental Science this year, showed that at 18 months children from wealthier homes could identify pictures of simple words they knew — “dog” or “ball” — much faster than children from low-income families. By age 2, the study found, affluent children had learned 30 percent more words in the intervening months than the children from low-income homes.

The new findings, although based on a small sample, reinforced the earlier research showing that because professional parents speak so much more to their children, the children hear 30 million more words by age 3 than children from low-income households, early literacy experts, preschool directors and pediatricians said. In the new study, the children of affluent households came from communities where the median income was $69,000; the low-income children came from communities with a median income of $23,900.


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Reply Language-Gap Study Bolsters a Push for Pre-K. (Original post)
elleng Oct 2013 OP
Igel Oct 2013 #1
elleng Oct 2013 #2

Response to elleng (Original post)

Wed Oct 23, 2013, 09:13 PM

1. Yup.

And "phonemic awareness" is an emergent property. It's required, t'would appear, for reading readiness. But it apparently results from hearing a sufficient number of tokens for a sufficiently large number of individual words.

Most "phonemic awareness" programs just provide more input--more tokens, more words.

Some will claim stress. People under stress don't talk. And their baby-sitters don't talk. And their friends don't talk. Stressed folk in poverty are uncommunicative and taciturn. (In what universe?)

Or perhaps they're working, and leave the kids in isolation booths. Alone, with no adult supervision.

Uh ... No.

Instead it's all interactional styles, child-rearing practices. Cultural. Those victimized as kids become victimizers as adults.

The most telling is that those on welfare, those who, two decades ago, were home much more often than working-class folk, produced the fewest tokens for their kids. They were home: They just marginalized their own offspring, depriving them of necessary sensory stimulation. (Which is actually a larger issue, more general, and just as true.)

You provide EC programs to remedy the problem in "EC" and when they're in "middle childhood" the problems resurface for all the same reasons. The biggest impediment to many at-risk kids' education isn't the schools--the brick-and-mortar buildings, the teachers, are adequate for other kids. But filling in the gaps that undereducated parents of at-risk kids bequeath to their kids is difficult. It's an on-going struggle.

My "kids" in my class fail their tests for two reasons. They can't hack the math.It's too abstract, they can't generalize, picking up their algebra "tools" and bringing them to my class. Mostly, though, they don't understand the questions. Tet if you try to teach them to understand what's being said, they get upset. It's condescending. But they just don't get it. "Compare" versus "contrast." "With respect to." I have kids who can't sort out that "5 minus 3" and "3 subtracted from 5" are the same thing. "Five divided by two" and "two divided into five" aren't the same. Do you simplify things to let them pass, or insist that they understand how the rest of the educated populace speaks?

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Response to Igel (Reply #1)

Wed Oct 23, 2013, 09:20 PM

2. Thanks. Sad, and so sorry to read more about this,

especially your experience.

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